107 pages 3 hours read

Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2014

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Important Quotes

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“‘Open your eyes’ concludes the man, ‘and see what you can with them before they close forever.’”

(Chapter 18, Page 59)

Werner and Jutta listen to a strange and wonderful children’s scientific broadcast in French, over Werner’s homemade wireless radio. This phrase is repeated many times throughout the novel, and it becomes Werner’s motto. It also reveals one of the novel’s themes: no one knows how long he may live, but he should do everything he can, and learn everything he can, while he is able.

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“What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.” 

(Chapter 20, Page 63)

Werner and Jutta listen to a broadcast—a science program for children, in French—on Werner’s homemade wireless. They are both transfixed by the program, and they listen to it every night that it is available. This quotation also illuminates the title of the novel and another of its significant themes: that even though the universe is composed of light that we cannot see, t we must do our best to understand the world around us.

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“‘You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.’” 

(Chapter 30, Page 95)

Herr Siedler, manager of the mines and owner of a beautiful Philco radio, tells Werner the real state of the world. Werner accepts this version of the world for a large portion of the novel. When he returns home from Herr Siedler’s mansion, he destroys his own shortwave radio and begins to accept his role in the Reich. 

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By Anthony Doerr